The most trying idiosyncrasy of living abroad as a working writer isn’t finding the motivation to work in paradise, it is finding dependable, long-term internet. In North American and Western Europe — even for people without an internet plan, — there are places and means by which to get a signal and work on the road. Hotels and hotels, coffee shops, truck stops, pizza parlors, malls, colleges and universities, public buildings and squares, event centers are just a few of the places internet access is free.
Abroad, especially in the third world, the situation is different. Not only is free internet rare, in most cases, people without proof of residency can’t get a service plan through an internet provider.
It is an exaggerated understatement to say a writer abroad without internet has a problem.
But, although conventional means of acquiring internet access may not be an option, there is always a workaround.
Ideal Means of Getting Internet Abroad
The most legitimate means of securing internet in a third-world country is applying for residency. With residency, a writer can do business with internet service providers. But, establishing residency usually takes months, even years, to accomplish and working writers can not afford the wait.
Plus, obtaining residency often requires a proof of a pension; a native spouse; or having a child with one. While marrying for residency isn’t uncommon, marrying for residency to get internet is a touch eccentric even for a writer.
There are easier ways to get internet service, but none of them come without a hitch.
Alternative Means of Getting Internet Abroad
The easiest way to get internet in a developing country is to buy a prepaid cellphone chip; pay for a data plan; and tether/wifi from phone to computer. The problems with internet service on a prepaid chip are the expense and the quality of service. Data plans on prepaid chips are notoriously overpriced and the service is unreliable and slow.
Cable TV Companies
Unlike cell phone and internet service providers, cable and satellite television companies are more open to doing business with non-resident foreigners as many of them are U.S. or European companies. The internet quality is much better than that provided by prepaid cell companies and it is often less expensive. However, unlike North America and Western Europe, ethnocentrism is a common practice.
Non-resident foreigners can expect to pay anywhere from 10% to 25% more than citizens for the same service.
The other problem with cable t.v. companies is that customers are rarely allowed to purchase internet service alone. Someone wanting internet service must also buy a t.v. package. Paying for the cable t.v. package increases the cost, double or triple what a person simply paying for basic internet pays an internet service provider.
Particularly in rural areas where internet service providers have yet to establish service, there are often tech savvy individuals who build a tower; install an industrial router atop it; pull internet off a cell tower; and sell the service for a fee. In many places, particularly where the signal from cell towers can not reach, these pirate providers are the only means by which to acquire internet.
The problem with pirate providers is that the internet is obtained, and therefore used, illegally. In addition, the quality and dependability is generally suspect and the price is rarely reasonable.
Last-Ditch Efforts to Fund Internet Access
It is usually not difficult to find people in underdeveloped countries who are willing to use their resident identification for the
installation of internet in a non-residence’s home, but it comes at a price. Additionally, restaurants and bars in resort towns often offer
free internet, but only to paying customers and working in a noisy environment is not possible for many writers. Internet cafes in
underdeveloped countries usually cost around a dollar or two an hour — sometimes less, — but the computers are typically old, under-maintained
and extremely slow, so working in an internet cafe can be a hassle.
For writers traveling abroad, the first thing to do upon arrival in a new country is get a prepaid SIM card, bite the bullet, and pay
exorbitant charges. The next thing to do is start looking for a back-door means of getting quality internet service. Then, get married,
apply for residency and get a legitimate internet service plan!
Ryan Hotchkiss is a Colorado Native who began traveling to Central America during college, working as a raft guide while obtaining a degree
in English Composition. Hotchkiss moved to Costa Rica permanently in 2008 and has a wife and a daughter named Cassidy. Ryan works online as a
freelance copy writer and continues to kayak and guide rafts in his free time.